Half-century in mental asylum a mistake..
Mon Oct 17, 2005 12:27 PM ET
By Biswajyoti Das
India (Reuters) – More than half-a-century ago, Machal Lalung was
thought to be insane and sent to a mental asylum in India’s remote
A few months ago, he was set free after the National
Human Rights Commission found that healthcare authorities had made a
mistake and Lalung suffered only from epilepsy.
confinement for 54 years has shocked rights activists and mental health
experts in a country where it is not uncommon for people to be branded
insane and locked up in homes or asylums for months, if not a few years.
Lalung’s case was not in our knowledge but once it was brought to our
notice, we immediately completed all legal formalities to secure his
release,” Assam’s Home Minister Rokybul Hussain told Reuters.
“I am really sorry for him,” he said.
comes as small consolation for the 77-year-old frail tribal man, who
was 23 when he was sent to the state-run mental hospital in the
Assamese city of Tezpur.
Fifty-four years with psychiatric
patients has dulled his senses, made him forget his family, his tribal
dialect and even the taste of the food he liked.
His life before
entering the asylum is nothing but a blip in his memory. So is the
story of how and who brought him to the mental home. Doctors who
treated Lalung have retired and records about him are missing.
Today Lalung said he awaits peace in death.
feel sad at what happened to my life but there is no use grumbling now.
I am just waiting for death,” he told Reuters at his nephew’s home in
Silchang village, about 55 miles east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.
I used to miss my family and always begged my wardens to send me home.
But they never listened to me,” he said with tears in his eyes.
only family members — his father and elder sister — are dead. He
lives with his sister’s son who grew up listening to stories about his
It was in fact the nephew who managed to
trace Lalung after a man from their village had gone to the same mental
hospital for treatment and saw Lalung.
“It was very difficult to stay with insane people in the same room but gradually I got used to it,” Lalung said.
despite his poor health, Lalung likes to work in a small vegetable
garden outside the house, carrying a spade and a pouch containing a
tobacco and betel nut snack to chew.
Although there were many women in the hospital, Lalung never tried to make friends with them or consider marriage.
“Who would want to marry an insane woman?” he asks.